Sony has apparently agreed to pay $1 million to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claims that the company illegally collected information online from children under the age of 13 in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Because of potential liability, it is rarely a good idea to have your website target minor children. Collecting data from them is an even bigger risk. In most cases (unless your business model is built on selling toys or other things for kids), it just isn’t worth dealing with the hassle. That’s why many wise online marketers use terms and conditions of use and privacy policies on their websites that specifically bar children from using their sites without active parental involvement.
If you insist on having kids use your site, you’re going to want to have customized website legal documents that specifically address COPPA requirements and a verified parental consent process for such use.
Sony was just an example made by the FTC – presumably because of the number of kids involved and the deep pockets that could pay a fine which would result in news stories and blog posts (like this one).
But what if your business got caught violating COPPA…even accidentally. Could you afford to defend yourself? Why take the risk. Either don’t let minors use your website or make sure that their use doesn’t violate laws that could put you in legal hot water.